Projection system places Cardinals first in the National League Central

Baseball Prospectus's projection system, PECOTA, projects the Cardinals to win the NL Central by a decent margin.

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Baseball Prospectus's projection system, PECOTA, released its standing predictions for 2024. The St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to their productive offseason. The Cardinals are projected to win 85.5 games next year, and they have a five-win advantage over the Chicago Cubs.

The division rounds out with Milwaukee in third with 78.8 wins, the Reds in fourth with 78.3 wins, and Pittsburgh bringing up the rear with 73 projected wins. St. Louis has a 52.4% chance to win the division, and the Cubs have a 20.2% chance to win the division. St. Louis also has a 12.7% chance to make it to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, making their playoff odds the highest in the division.

Digging deeper, we see that the Cardinals have a 38.4% chance of making it to the divisional round, the third-best in the National League behind only the Atlanta Braves (96.6%) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (98.1%). St. Louis has a 3.3% chance to win the World Series, the eighth-best odds in all of Major League Baseball. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Twins, Astros, Rangers, Braves, and Dodgers all have better odds.

PECOTA, an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, forecasts player and team performances based on past performances and comparable players. Nate Silver, now a statistician for FiveThirtyEight, started PECOTA in 2002. Historically, PECOTA projections are some of the most conservative among sabermetric systems, so it is eye-opening to see the Cards being one of the best teams in the National League after a down year in 2023. While fans are so down on the team, PECOTA sees St. Louis as a true contender.

These projections place the Cardinals as one of the top teams in the National League, a position they held for most of the century up until last year. A 14-win improvement from last year is dramatic, but it isn't unprecedented. Should the Cardinals' rotation hold, the bulked-up bullpen perform well late in games, and the offense show its true potential, the Cardinals have every opportunity to win eighty-five or more games in 2024.

I recently discussed what it will take to consider 2024 a successful season, and I posited that a playoff series victory will be redeeming for a franchise that hasn't done so in five seasons. The National League Divisional Series is within reach for the Cardinals, and PECOTA seems to think the Cardinals will be one of the top teams in the National League next year surpassing the uber-talented Philadelphia Phillies and the 2023 National League Pennant winners in the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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